Q. The first 3 couples to arrive at Strawberry Point in 1914 were called “honeymooners” because of their recent marriages. When were the first wedding vows exchanged on “The Flats” and who were the bride and groom?
A. Seventy years ago, a June 10, 1938 ceremony it was, and what a grand community affair! It is astounding the amount of fanfare that enterprising homesteaders were able to accomplish, so far removed from supplies and civilization. Yet a traditional wedding took place in all its glory, complete with beautifully appointed decorations, kneeling altar, decked-out attendants, preacher, wedding dress, three-tier cake (homemade by the bride), and an outdoor guest table set with a feast fit for a King!
Here comes the bride! In 1937, Nell Crowell came from California to Gustavus as a missionary helper with a small group of women. Their intention to conduct services for children at canneries hit a brick wall. At Excursion Inlet the women would be considered too much of a distraction to the working men and told they would have to move on. What was Nell to do? The clergy steamer fare had been $35—a considerable sum she had worked hard for and solicited others for donations. To make matters worse, the lead missionary decided to go home. Then came the groom—Glen Parker to the rescue!
Glen Parker was the youngest son of Abraham & Edith Parker, who arrived at Strawberry Point in May 1917. Edith was often the only woman on the Point, left alone for long stretches of time while the men folk went hunting, prospecting and fetching supplies. Lonely and afraid, she longed for a female companion. At Excursion Inlet the Parker brothers were on a business trip when they happened across the missionary women at loose ends and looking for direction. To make a long story short, the ladies accepted an invitation to visit Gustavus, and Nell decided to stay for one year as Edith’s live-in companion. Nell & Edith became very fond of one another. And Nell began to love the pioneering lifestyle and the wild, natural beauty of the Point. She also fell in love with a shy, good looking, resourceful man—a virtual diamond in the rough who proposed in November 1937.
Rings were purchased on a trip to Juneau. Nell’s mother, “a fine lady with good taste”, sent real silk satin bolt material from California. Keeping late winter hours, by lantern light on a treadle sewing machine, Nell fashioned her own wedding gown complete with a simple train and veil. But it bothered her that she had no lace. Another trip to Juneau produced several yards and she sewed them around the bottom of her slip. Though it did not show, Nell was satisfied and declared “anyway, I had some lace!”.
Nell & Glen once again made a trip to pick up Juneau’s “Brother Personeus” who “tied the knot really tight” on the front porch of the Abraham Parker Good River homestead. The bride carried a spray of waxed orange blossoms, surrounded by vases of wild and cultivated blooms. The porch rafters were decorated with hanging lupine and vines which Nell declared looked like “real wisteria all around”. Wedding presents were opened, with Joe & Muz Ibach sending over a beautiful wool blanket. A community dinner followed with doors and planks set on barrels to form one long, continuous table.
The newlyweds spent their honeymoon night aboard the L & G (still resting at Doc Bailey’s old place) anchored in Sweetheart Cove. The boat’s cramped quarters could only accommodate an upright position in the small pilothouse which made for a “hunched over” tour of Glacier Bay. An extended honeymoon summer would unexpectedly be spent at the Leroy Gold Mine (located just 3 weeks following the wedding by Leslie Parker while prospecting with father Abraham at Ptarmigan Creek). Nell became camp cook, and Glen all round helper. She would spend the exceptionally hot days of her first married summer in a bathing suit, dipping in Glacier Bay waters for her baths.
On the back of his wedding photo, Glen wrote these heartfelt words “A blessed time”. Nell described the beginning of the “adventure of her life” in simple, but poignant terms, “Glen gave me a big hug and said ‘wilt thou?’ and I wilted!”